The debut recording from 30-year old American pianist/composer Mike Bond features a fantastic group of musicians whose rapport can be immediately felt. The multi-generational core quintet includes versatile horn players such as saxophonist Steve Wilson and trumpeter Josh Evans, as well as a rhythm team with bassist Ben Wolfe and drummer Anwar Marshall in full command of the foundation. Beatboxer Gene Shinozaki and vocalists Claudia Acuña and Maya Holliday, give their contribution on selected tracks as special guests.
The opening piece, “Chapter 1: On Your Mark” is the first of three short, distinct and equally infectious chapters that are a delight to listen to. The aforementioned effort blends a kinetic swing drive with free, eloquent horn excursions. “Chapter 2: Get Set” boasts an intense groove sustaining all the flying melodies that attempt to land up; it features Acuña’s attractive voice in communion with Wilson’s soprano twitches. “Chapter 3: Go”, more percussively explorative and harmonically busy, substantiates a happy marriage between jazz and hip hop. Part of this mood is transferred to the anthemic “The Honorable Ones”, which is rhythmically contoured by Marshall’s snare eruptions and Shinozaki’s spectacular vocal beat, and features Wilson and Evans negotiating back and forth. Also, the closing piece, “Rail Road”, an arrangement of the folk tune “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad”, denotes a clear hip-hop influence.
Both “Verus Vita”, a charming post-bop ride launched with a melodic consensus between bass and piano, and “Chase the Wind”, composed with the jazz fusion of Chick Corea in mind, differ from the hard-bop animosity of “It’s A Long Way Back”, where we have Evans and Marshall exchanging ideas after clear enunciations from Wilson and Bond.
Ms. Acuña returns with her sure-fire pitch control on the standard “More I See You”, and waltzing was never as free and easy as on the Shorter-esque “Block The Box”. In two of the 12 tracks, Bond also explores possibilities within the classic piano-bass-drums format, yet these selections don’t match the brightness of other numbers on the album.
Produced by pianist Orrin Evans and uninhibited when it comes to assume other non-jazz influences, this solid first effort made me curious about where Bond might be heading next.